England’s Ashes series against Australia, scheduled for October and November, has been cancelled.
New England coach Shaun Wane was due to take charge of three Tests against the World Cup holders in Bolton, Leeds and Tottenham Hotspur’s stadium in London.
It would have been the first Ashes series in 17 years.
However, the Rugby Football League and Australia’s Rugby League Commission have confirmed it will not go ahead because of the coronavirus pandemic.
They pinpointed complications for global travel and the need to extend domestic competitions in both countries as reasons for the decision.
With the World Cup due to take place in the UK in 2021, talks have begun about possibly rescheduling the Ashes series for 2022.
RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer said: “We make this announcement with great reluctance and disappointment, as we had been looking forward so much to welcoming the Kangaroos for the revival of the Rugby League Ashes in 2020 – and the prospect of the series had captured the imagination of our players, broadcast & commercial partners, supporters and media alike.
“However, the current circumstances have had a seismic impact on rugby league, as on all other sports, and we all now need to give, in order to find solutions for the greater and longer term good of the game.
“After regular discussions with the ARLC over the last few months, combined with those within our domestic competitions, we have concluded that the right thing to do for the game as a whole is to make this decision now.”
A financially stretched RFL were, in part, dependent on the Ashes tour happening to help swell their coffers. All matches were also to be broadcast live on BBC television.
Rimmer has acknowledged that the cancellation is a financial blow, adding: “It will have a considerable impact on the finances of rugby league here in England, as we were banking on a significant boost from Australia’s first full tour since 2003.
“But as I have said regularly to all parts of the game since the seriousness of the situation became clear, we are all going to have to make sacrifices, and financial adjustments – and we should stress again our gratitude to the government for the significant support they provided at the start of May, which will help us to deal with this major setback.”
The cancellation also leaves England, at this stage, without any games planned for new coach Wane ahead of next year’s World Cup. The RFL will be under pressure to organise a worthwhile fixture for mid-season next year.
Andrew Abdo, the interim chief executive of the NRL, said: “It is disappointing that the historic Kangaroos tour to the UK can no longer take place in 2020. We look forward to the Rugby League World Cup in 2021 and hopefully a tour to the UK by the Kangaroos in a future season.”
Fans who have already purchased tickets to the Ashes are able to either claim a credit for a ticket to attend any major rugby league event in 2020 or 2021, including the 2021 World Cup, or claim a full refund.